South Lake Tahoe coffee roasters Refuge Coffee, Clyde’s Coffee brewing fanbases on South Shore
There was a time, not long ago, when Jared Marquez, owner and roaster of Refuge Coffee in South Lake Tahoe, didn’t like coffee.
“I didn’t like how bitter it was, and I didn’t like how all coffee seemed to taste the same,” Marquez told Lake Tahoe Action.
His hard stance, however, softened with one sip at a specialty coffee shop in San Diego back in 2012.
“I took a sip and it was nothing like I would imagine, but it was really good — it was a total paradigm shift,” said Marquez, a South Lake Tahoe native living in San Diego at the time.
At the time, Marquez had a wild hair to one day move back to the South Shore and open up his own café. That sip of java, however, set him down a different path: starting his own coffee company.
“I was thinking, man, who are we going to get coffee from once I move back to Tahoe and start up this café?” Marquez said. “Then I thought, instead of trying to find a roaster that makes coffee just like I like it, why don’t I just roast it myself?”
And so, after three years of experimenting in his kitchen — bean roasting, coffee brewing, taste-testing, repeat — Marquez found the “sweet spot” he was searching for.
“I wanted to see a coffee that had a great natural sweetness instead of bitter or sour,” he explained. “And that also had a lot of nuance, flavor and balance — not too light, not too dark — where you get the top notes but a nice heft.”
Since the launch of Refuge Coffee in 2015, Marquez has been providing those unique and adventurous flavors — from “fruity and floral” to “rustic and wild” — to coffee drinkers around Lake Tahoe.
What’s more, the 33-year-old recently fulfilled the main objective he set when returning to Tahoe: opening a café. Serving smoothies, burritos and, of course, coffee, the Refuge Coffee café is tucked inside the Blue Granite Climbing Gym, located at 1259 Emerald Bay Road.
“We just got our café running, which has been the whole dream,” said Marquez, who runs the company alongside his sister, and business partner, Destiny, 27. “It’s that space where we really can have an impact on people personally and have that kind of influence I dreamed of having in the community. It was definitely a long journey and took a lot of patience and I feel lucky to have made it.”
Two and a half months into opening their doors, the feedback from locals and visitors has been nothing but sweet, according to Marquez.
“We’re getting a lot of people saying they’ve been wanting there to be a coffee in this style in South Lake Tahoe for a long time,” said Marquez, who roasts everything from an “Ethiopia Natural Guji” with notes of cotton candy, berries and cream to a “Colombia Organic El Bombo” with notes of crème brule, honeyed granola, peach cobbler and dried mango.
Refuge Coffee fans also have the option to sign up for a monthly subscription coffee service, as well as order beans online or purchase them from Free Bird Café.
Clyde’s Coffee Roasting
On the Nevada side of the lake in Stateline, Clyde’s Coffee Roasting has been steeped in Tahoe since March 2017.
The family owned and operated coffeehouse and roasting shop was the brainchild of Craig Quillin, who moved with his family from Mammoth Lakes to South Lake Tahoe three years ago. He had previously been in the restaurant business for 20 years.
“I really wanted to do what I’m passionate about, what I love most — coffee,” he told Lake Tahoe Action.
But when Quillin and his wife, Marlo, and son, Clyde, moved to the South Shore they patiently waited to open a shop until “the perfect spot” was available. After a year of waiting, the Quillins jumped on a building set on Kingsbury Grade and Clyde’s Coffee Roasting was born.
“It’s the perfect building for a coffee shop,” said Craig Quillin, whose family also roasts the coffee on site. “And it’s a great location. There’s really nobody else roasting in the area here. So it fulfills a need for the community in this part of town because there’s nobody else — and I hear that from my customers every day. “
Clyde’s Coffee regulars and visitors alike can savor an array of java flavors at the coffeehouse — from a “Costa Rica El Tigre” (lemony with a hint of nuttiness) to a “Sumatra Lintong Tiger” (creamy with notes of dark chocolate and orange citrus).
“It’s all freshly roasted all the time — it’s as fresh as it gets,” said Quillin, noting that the coffeehouse also serves pastries from Paul Schat’s Bakery in Carson City. “We’re the only ones that have Paul Schat’s pastries. So we have world-class pastries that we bake here on the premises every day.”
Along with serving special sweets and specialty coffee, Quillin said the business sells beans online and has coffee subscription plans available for six months or one year. Moreover, the company supplies a handful of fire departments and restaurants in the area, he said.
“We do thousands of pounds of coffee that we roast, typically every other day,” Quillin said.
He pointed out that his son is even learning, and enjoying, the art of coffee roasting. In fact, Quillin thinks Clyde might someday even expand the coffee roasting company named after him.
“He’s headed to college next year and is trying to pick a college where he can focus on business and maybe franchise Clyde’s or something,” Quillin said. “Go big with the coffee business.”